Am I Too Old?

I see my reality very differently

Am I too old?

How old is old enough?
am I too old to feel young?
am I too old to run and hide?
am I too old to care?

How old is old enough?
am I too old to want to know?
am I too old to love someone?
am I too old to care?

How old is old enough?
am I too old to feel you near?
am I too old to call you babe?
am I too old to care?

How old is old enough?
am I too old to dance with you?
am I too old to share your passion?
am I too old to care?

I am not yet old enough,
so dance me to end of time.
Still I see the fairies dance,
for your love is always mine.

by bill reynolds 7/5/2017

To live long and prosper, look both ways and mind the gaps.

Forever Young!

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The Paradox of Love – Joan and John

This is my second post in a series about the paradox of love. It is a little different in that it’s about a man I’ve met, and a couple in love. I’ve included two of his poems.

Let’s answer this question: What is the best hoped-for outcome of any relationship?

Even Grimm’s Fairy Tales don’t finish with the “and they lived happily ever after” fantasy. The best we can hope for is, until death do us part. Barring the end of the movie The Notebook, murder-suicide pacts, or certain accidents; someone gets left. And we are often made miserable by our loss, about being left without someone we love, or about how that happened.

I don’t know John Gorow well. We attend the same writer’s group. John’s an old timer in the group; I’m new. He agreed to allow me to publish the story he related to me, and the poems he wrote. It is a remarkable and inspirational story. His poems are wonderful.

Joan and John Gorow met in 1969, when both were recovering from divorce. Prior to their marriage in 1972, Joan told John that she had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). According to John, Joan’s health setbacks did not begin for about 28 years. Since 2000, her MS was a problem. Then came breast cancer. While treatment led to a full recovery, a Parkinson’s diagnosis soon followed, in addition to her worsening MS.

For approximately 15 years, John was Joan’s constant companion and full-time caregiver. As Joan’s health continued to deteriorate, the burden on John increased. In response to that challenge, John wrote the following beautiful, heart-wrenching poem.

***
CAREGIVER
by John Gorow

Time moves on
Inconvenient impairments become life altering
Legs don’t do what she wants
Hands have difficulty holding things

Normal chores are no longer normal
Cooking becomes dangerous
Washing dishes is impossible
Clothes can’t be carried to the washer while using a walker
The vacuum can’t be pushed
Self-worth begins to fade.

The one who has been cared for must now give care
She has cooked for me
It is my turn to cook for her
She washed our clothes
I will do the washing
She kept our home clean
I will try my best

It is assumed we all can dress ourselves
That is no longer true
Showering on her own can’t be done
No more going to the bathroom by herself

Memory slips – confusion arrives
What day is it?
Where are we?
I need patience
We talk, and then we laugh – I cry on the inside

Kids tell me to get help
I finally do – one day a week
Who is it harder on – her or me?
I get some freedom – she does not.

Caregiving is tough
Better than the alternative
I want her as she was
It will not happen
But then again, I do have her

(October 17, 2013)

***

Seven months ago, on October 22, 2016, John no longer had Joan with him. Since then, John has suffered and struggled with his pain. He wrote the following poem to directly address grief in response to the prompt: what brought you to your knees? In the fifth stanza, he directly addresses the paradox of love, vis-à-vis his grief.

***

GRIEF
by John Gorow

Who are you, grief?
Why do you pester me?
You have dropped me to my knees.

I knew I would have to deal with you,
But is it forever?
You keep lingering in my life.

I think you may be gone,
Then you grab me once again.
My laughs turn into tears.

Others have told me about you,
But you don’t behave the same with all.
I can’t determine when you will rise again.

What a paradox.
I have tried to hate you,
But without love you wouldn’t be here.

I know we will take the rest of my journey together,
So I must accept you.
That acceptance will be slow.

You should know
I will no longer dread the tears you bring me,
You will need to accept that.

You can stay with me,
But I will slowly rise from my knees.
I will move forward, but not forget.

(May 18, 2017)

***

I want to close this post with the same line John ended his email to me. It’s a beautiful one-line poem of five words.

“I miss her very much.”

***

As we look both ways and mind the gaps,
let’s not forget that some of us are suffering.
Let us love and support each other, and at all times, let us cherish those we love –
paradox or not.

 

Y – Yolonda, To Our Life (NaPoWriMo #28)

Yesterday was Yolonda’s birthday. I wrote this poem for her, to her, and about us. Lordy, we were so young the day we married; a long time ago on a planet far, far away.

 

Age 19

 

To Our Life
by Bill Reynolds

You’re at the core of my life, the blood of my love.
Together for years, we performed so many acts
With so many roles we’ve held as a pair, line upon line,
We’ve both been there, one with the other,
searching for truth.

Unknowing what another play might’ve been,
We know what this was; and now we see what it is
Like pearls on a string, between two people in love
Our years remain, foundations of that same love,
And discovery of truth.

We built this world, one moment at a time.
Moments we recall; and some too long forgotten,
Our time together, creations of a living world,
The past is our present, our present the future.
And pacing our life, acting on truth.

Burdens of life did task our endurance
As humanity’s frailty tested our love.
All while building great passion and strength,
Nothing in the future can bring change to our past.
Stumbling on stones, finding more truth.

Love is not work, not a great task
While true work of the universe, it just might be,
Not as a choice we make, nor a feeling we have,
Love is just that, love is simply love.
Love never dies, nor shall this truth.

Happy Birthday, My Love; blessings to you,
A toast to your life, how happy you’ve made me
By being my wife. I’m glad I found ya.
We all love you., my dearest Yolonda.
A love discovered is finding a truth.

Road Trip Ready

 

Live long, love well, seek truth and happiness. Keep looking both ways, and mind the dangers lurking in the gaps.

T – Tercet: In Real Time (NoPoWriMo #24)

The tercet is a poetic stanza of three lines with a rhyme. While there is no specific rhyme scheme necessary and some even venture into free verse, I prefer to not to dig in unplowed turf. However, I did play with this and came up with rhyming lines one and two in each stanza, and using mid and end line rhymes in line three: aab2, bbc2, etc.

***

In Real Time
By Bill Reynolds

Not to be seen, heard, or specifically smelt.
We know it’s there, cuz experiences felt,
No gods can stop it, no power to quit.

Some sew it wisely, while others just wait.
The outcome’s the same, we share the same fate.
Fight back as we may; that is only delay.

Wind we can feel, the rain we may taste.
But the passage of time, we have little to waste.
Let’s consider the past; make choices that last.

Perpetually running, it passes in silence;
Everything changes, nothing is timeless.
Reality speaks loudly, but time passes proudly.

***

Thinking of time, be looking both ways.
While minding the gaps, watch only today’s.

Faces in the Mirror

What would it be like today, if I could see all the faces that you have reflected? You only reflect me the way I look today, older and very different than when we first saw each other. I don’t recall that day, because it was almost 70 years in the past. Before that, you had reflected many other faces for as many reasons.

Since before I was born, you always had your place in our home, on the west wall of our dining room. There, you were centered on the wall, above the old sideboard buffet, which was also a permanent fixture. As anyone walked past you going to, or returning from, the kitchen; you reflected their profile. Before leaving home, we all stopped and faced you for your final review and blessing as we took one last look. Mom and Dad used you to check the look of their hats reflected in your glass.

Since your total viewing area is only one foot by a yard wide, you never revealed much about us below the neck and shoulders. Yet, you remained our primary, go-to mirror even after several full-length mirrors were installed. I recall the day my brother stood staring at you when he pontificated, “You know, Billy, you’re only as good as you look.” I never agreed with him. Did you? I suspect that how people look is important to you. It’s your purpose.

Every year, on Palm Sunday, someone would change out the palm frond strip hung prominently across the top of your frame, where it would remain for the year. That was sort of the family way of dressing you up for Easter Sunday. It was always the same.

The only time you, or any of those items around you, were moved, it was for painting walls or changes to the floor coverings. But you, the mirror, and below you, the side board, were always restored to your rightful, prominent places. Mom and Dad did not change furniture often, but they never booted you from your space.

How many photographs, cards, messages, and notes were stuffed between the edges of your glass and your frame? What did they say? Were they important?

You are in old pictures from my grandfather’s house (the one my mother grew up in), taken long before my birth, showing you along with two side sconces, both long gone. I never met any of my grandparents, but you did. I’m sure my Mom’s father looked at his reflection in your glass. Maybe her mother, too. I can envision him holding his young daughter up for you to see. Who else saw themselves, and the reflection of others, in your glass?

Beginning in the 1920s or 30s, every member of my family must have looked at you. When did you come into being? Every friend who ever visited our house saw their reflection, and probably that of others, when they looked at you.

You have survived the Great Depression, the FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy years, World War II (and possibly WWI), several rough moves, and whatever untold disasters that occurred during your 44 years in my parents’ home. For the past twenty-five years, you’ve been undamaged by my hauling you from one end of the country to the other.

Your ornate frame has a few nicks and scratches revealing hints that the wood beneath your gilded frame’s lamination is red. The corners of your frame are secured with two wooden dowels each, all attesting to the creativity and craftsmanship of an earlier time, when some master mirror maker worked magic.

While you’re a handsome and distinguished antique, it’s not you the mirror that provides the mystery and intrigue. It is the many thousands of faces that underwent self-examination as you watched, the hundreds of times a tie or hat was straightened with your approval, or when an Easter Bonnet was set to one side, and then given an approving nod.

Oh, mirror on my wall, holding the history of thousands of changing faces within your glass panes, do you remember their smiles and their tears. What do you remember? What secrets do you hold? Will you show me those reflections so that I may see whose lives you’ve shared? I recall with fondness and sometimes sadness, the pictures in my memory of the many times I stood nearby, and watched, as others used you to reflect a special moment in time. Show me their faces today, so that we might name the names.

When you look in a mirror, wonder.
Who else has looked this way? Who will?
Look! But, look both ways, and mind your gap.

There is a Time

I first wrote this blog several weeks ago. Then, I gave it up and decided not to post it. However, something happened to change my mind – so here it is.

right-to-die2When would you like to die?

I choose never. I also would like to remain mentally and physically healthy during that time. I want the never die answer to apply to all people I love, like, care about, and anyone who I don’t want to leave me. It’s settled – no more death, no more suffering before death in lonely misery and pain. No more loss, being left, or watching someone wither away with cancer. Problem solved in less than 80 words. Praise be.

This is an issue of rights. I’m one of many who think our right to die is as basic as any natural human right. We can’t choose when and how we die. No one can help anyone else decide that.

Any of us could be accidentally killed at any time. Otherwise, and more likely, the people we pay to keep us alive will find that, eventually, nothing they can do will prevent the inevitable.

right-to-die3

I assume that for most (not all) of my family, my death would be something of a big deal. Like birth, it’s a one-time thing. Unlike birth and life, death has no end. But it does have a process called dying, and that seems to be the larger concern we share regarding the topic. It is the getting from life to death that we worry about. I am going to tell you about two deaths.

When I first met Dixie about four years ago, she was a fairly spry and cantankerous 98-year-old lady. I attended Dixie’s 99th birthday party. I watched as she introduced each arriving guest to each of the 15 or so other persons in the room, correctly by name and relationship. Then, she would tell a little story about each new arrival. Dixie stood, and moved around the room, in short heels through all of this for two hours. I was amazed. Her 100th birthday party was a memorial service. Dixie died in her home of a heart attack or similar cardiac event about six months later. If we could all be Dixie, I would not be writing this.

I met Joe less than two years ago, when I moved into the same apartment building. Last April, I attended his 96th birthday party. While not quite up to Dixie’s condition, Joe seemed fine to me. He was able to get around well with a walker. He drove and took care of virtually all his personal issues. Joe was very independent. I’ve been told that he informed others (not me) that he was concerned, and if his health failed too much, he would commit suicide.

After returning from a trip to the emergency room a few weeks ago, sometime during the night, Joe stepped into his bath tub and used a pistol to end his life. He was alone at the time and left no note and no explanation. I was shocked. But as I learned more, I’ve come to understand his motivation.

right-to-die1I live in state where physician assisted suicide and death with dignity are legal. However, getting a prescription is not easy and a patient must be terminal within six months. There is more to this. I don’t believe that we have the right to force people like Joe into this position. But we do.

In most of America, it’s illegal for us to receive any assistance in bringing about this inevitable event. Suicide is illegal in some states.

Jose H. Gomez, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, CA, has written about the right to die: “There is no such thing.” Many religious people will not grant anyone the right to end their own life (believers or not). The circumstances don’t matter: age, pain, suffering, loss of all hope of recovery, or loss of any dignity. Only “natural” death is permissible. If that’s what people want for themselves, good for them. But for others who wish to die, evil and cruel laws are unacceptable.

I fully understand the difficulty of this issue. Click here to read a good article on the right to die with a fantastic video, both of which are much more balanced than my opinion. Another eye-opener is an excellent TED talk on dying that I have watched several times. Click here to view it.

right-to-die4I’m sure that we’re technically and legally smart enough to figure this out so that people like Joe, or others with painful terminal illness can be granted the relief that a god who cared would grant them. But that is only going to be possible as we become more secular and religion is separated from law.

For each of us, there is a time to be born and a time to live. Always look both ways because there is also a time to die.

Are You an Enigma?

enigma3

I’m comfortable with not understanding everything and everybody. It has little to do with what I want, but more to do with my level of acceptance. I can be curious, and sometimes I’d like to know more. But I’ll never know everything.

Here’s an example. About a year ago I was in a discussion group talking about the US Government, and the government of another country that many of us consider an enemy. One lady said, “All I want is to know the truth.”

I watched her to be sure she was serious. Then asked, “The truth about what?” Following her tongue-tied response, I asked why she thought she could learn the truth. I explained that we had all the information available, filtered by the providing media source. Her problem was, and ours is that we usually form opinions and make decisions without knowing the facts. She said, “Well, that’s interesting.”

enigma2

The first time that I recall anyone calling me an enigma was back in the mid-1980s. I was walking back to my office when one of my staff looked at the contents of my hands he said, “You’re an enigma.” I looked down at my hands, smiled at him, and asked why. “A Snickers candy bar and a Diet Pepsi. That makes no sense.” I hadn’t considered the conflict of the combo. I answered, “It does to me. I like them both. If I was interested in diet, it would be celery sticks and a glass of water.”

If an enigma is a person or thing that is “mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand,” may I add “and interesting” without changing the definition? If you are an enigma to me, that means I find you difficult to understand. So what? I may see you as interesting for that same reason. I should accept that is who you are.

If I ask you to explain what I see as a puzzling conflict in your behavior or opinions, and you do, are you still an enigma? Or is it my failure to understand the makes you an enigma?

The enigma phenomenon pronouncement is an outside view. The inside view usually makes perfect sense. Furthermore, if people change behavior or opinion, are they still enigmatic?

I am an enigma to many. Here’s why.

enigma5

I spent over 45 years working in the Department of Defense (military, contractor, and civil service). I graduated from the most conservative (by most measures) public university in the country. I’m an old white guy who lived in Texas most of my life, and most of my long term acquaintances are conservative, republican, and religious. Stereotype me based on that and you’ll get me wrong, as many do.

enigma4

Politically, I’m a left of center moderate democrat. Depending on the issue, I’m often liberal, but I often find myself defending traditional things. I am fairly disciplined, but a good and flexible listener. I am an atheist who spent too many years trying to be that church guy. My past, age, race, education, and former residence belie the real me.

Love and peace are the answers. We should do all we can to avoid wars. After that, I think the limited, partial measures war-like actions of the past were folly. War should be fought to win. Because war is so ugly, that goal is only reasonable after all peaceful measures have failed. Talking war is a murky swamp full of traps. But I think we need to apply logic to our policies so that we can stop being on the losing end.

I’m neutral regarding the term open minded. I prefer a willingness to hear some other points of view, to be accepting of what I can, but to hold to my beliefs until information changes my mind.

I’ve done a lot, seen a lot, and lived a lot; but I can still be perplexed about myself. So, if you’re confused, maybe you should be. My wheels turn slower than they used to, but they’ve not stopped.

enigma

To keep an open mind, look both ways.